For many years, users of the US Cellular network lacked options when it came to selecting a cellular 3G/4G modem, gateway or router for wireless data acquisition and remote monitoring applications. For organizations that were using the US Cellular network, the lack of “certified” devices was a potential barrier to launching M2M or mobility projects using a public network backbone. Well, the wait is over. For those clients who have been looking for a reliable US Cellular cell modem option for in-vehicle usage or for SCADA, distribution automation or other types of industrial automation, the wait is over. US Cellular has certified the Sierra Wireless AirLink GX450 and the ES450 for use on the US Cellular network as of July 15th, 2015 and the devices are available and shipping now. See them both below.
It is official: Sierra Wireless will cease production of the AirLink GX440 in that not too distant future. The Sierra Wireless GX440 is sunsetting at the end of 2015. Last buy for the GX440 will be Dec. 31st, 2015. Last shipment will be June 30, 2016. Why the six month differential between last buy and last shipment? Because Sierra Wireless is most likely going to allow phased purchase orders is our interpretation. The replacement product for the GX440 is the GX450. The time to start planning for your company’s migration to the GX450 is now. For a summary description of the differences between the GX440 and the GX450, visit this link.
Supply chain managers are constantly looking for innovative ways to do more with less. In the cellular space one sticking point for enterprise procurement strategies is the fact that for most product cellular modem/gateway/router product lines, there is not an option to buy a single device and have it operate on all three major carrier networks (Sprint, Verizon & AT&T).
Today I’d like to write about one cellular modem that can, indeed, be used for all three carrier networks. The single device that is compatible with all three public carrier networks is the CalAmp Vanguard 3000.
HOW IT WORKS
The CalAmp Vanguard 3000 uses a Qualcomm GOBI radio module that is software delineated as to which carriers networks it will use. The cellular carrier can be selected any time after purchase. What this means is that the end-user can select which carrier (Sprint, VZW, or AT&T) that will be the network associated with the device. Although, the Vanguard 3000 can, in practice, be activated with live data plans for all three major US carriers, the most common scenario is that the device is provisioned for one carrier only at the time of deployment.
WHY THIS MATTERS
There are only two part numbers for the Vanguard 3000. There are not separate part number variants for every carrier and carrier combination. The adaptability of the CalAmp Vanguard 3000 makes for an easier-to-manage supply chain since only one part needs to be warehoused. This type of flexibility has other benefits. If corporate telecommunication contracts undergo a major change–for example, one carrier is supplanted by another on a corporate level–there is no need to buy all new cellular modems. The Vanguard 3000 can be provisioned for a different carrier and does not need to be replaced.
3G ONLY TODAY
Today the CalAmp Vanguard 3000 is available only for 3G networks. This is more than sufficient for many remote data acquisition applications but is not appropriate for high-bandwidth applications like video monitoring. To learn more about the CalAmp Vanguard 3000, in both its iterations (140-7230-110 and the 140-7230-000), click here.
I have heard, from the engineers that I work with, XLTE disparaged as a “marketing term.” However, for the record, I find it is aptly named–as it is, indeed, extra LTE spectrum that Verizon wireless is building out to enhance their current 4G network. In markets where standard LTE performance is hindered as the network hits “critical mass,” Verizon in adding AWS to its bag of tricks so that the overall user experience will be better across the board. Does XLTE matter to ever user, everywhere? No. Does XLTE add more bandwidth in markets that risk saturation? Yes. All, in all, good for VZW for rolling out XLTE. But now on to the practical nuts-and-bolts matters involved in wireless solution building. As more companies begin to evaluate whether to start testing modems, cellular gateways and cellular routers that incorporate the AWS XLTE spectrum it is good to know a source for antennas that cover the 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and XLTE (AWS) bands. XLTE rubber duck dipole antennas, mini rubber ducks dipole antennas, and two high-gain mast antennas that support XLTE can be procured here. At our test bench in a very small city, we were surprised to discover, when testing these AWS band antennas, that XLTE had already reached us.
To borrow from Edgar Allen Poe, Quoth the raven, “nevermore”
Sierra Wireless has made it official this week that the AirLink Raven X line is going end-of-life (EOL) sooner than their past manufacturing roadmaps indicated. For Raven X the date for the last order placement has been pegged at June 30th 2013. For Raven XT (Verizon Wireless) the date is May 31st. For Raven XE the date is August 31st.
The Sierra Wireless AirLink Raven X, XT, and XT has long been the standard for M2M cell modems in use for Smart Grid applications in the U.S.A.. Sierra Wireless has released the Sierra Wireless AirLink LS300 (1101489, 1101490, 1101491) cell modem as a replacement for this line and many of utility industry clients are currently testing it. Feedback has been good so far, but change is never easy, especially for utility and energy companies where long test-cycles are a part of the best practices.
Is Sierra Wireless going to be firm with their scheduled sunset of the ultra-profitable Raven X line? My inclination is no, however, prudence dictates that the alternative LS300, GX400, and GX440 be tested immediately in order to move them through the standards department and into production.
For those who are interested in keeping informed about the latest wireless connectivity options available for electric utility distribution automation and transmission automation, there are many exciting developments at DistribuTECH 2013. Today at DistribuTech in San Diego, Sierra Wireless announced the immediate availability of their new, ultra-compact, intelligent modem, the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300. With external dimensions of about 3′ by 3.5″ this wireless gateway is a smaller footprint than the Raven X or the GX400/440, which means it fits well into environmental enclosures and NEMA cabinets. Although the Sierra Wireless LS300 is small in size, it is very rich in features. It has an Ethernet port, a serial port (on the side) and also contains a GPS reciever. The price of this device is less than the Raven X and the GX400 platforms even though it exceeds or matches the feature set of both of these cellular network devices. Clearly, the intent of Sierra Wireless with the Airlink LS300 is that this device will replace the Airlink Raven X going forward. Key clients have already been seeded with test/demo units of the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300. For those evaluating M2M communication device, the LS300 is worth considering when researching cellular Ethernet/serial gateways. It is worth noting that the Sierra Wireless Airlink LS300 is available only for the Verizon Wireless and AT&T 3G cellular networks, not their LTE networks. Clients that want LTE will have to opt for the Sierra Wireless Airlink GX440.
After getting sporadic reports of issues from our clients using Verizon Wireless 4G LTE devices, we have worked with our manufacturer partners and VZW to connect the dots. Here are the facts. There is an issue with the Qualcomm chipset used on the Sierra Wireless AirPrime MC7750 LTE radio module. The chipset issue does not manifest in all geographical regions, but when it does the following problem can be experienced:
4G WWAN devices have trouble staying connected to the Verizon Wireless network. Apparently, if the device drops out of 4G coverage into 3G coverage, it then has a problem reconnecting. We have seen clients experience this scenario using devices as diverse as a Panasonic Toughbook H2 with embedded VZW LTE, the Sierra Wireless AirLink GX440 1101414, 1101413, 1101531, 1101530 and the CradlePoint IBR600-LE.
Currently, we have been informed by contacts Panasonic and Sierra Wireless that a firmware fix will be available for this issue at the end of November. VZW confirms that these devices are in their labs and that a November date is accurate for VZW to finish necessary testing.
After the new firmware is available, detailed instructions will be posted here to explain how the fix can be applied. It is strange that initial carrier certification testing did not expose this potential issue…
A member of the USAT team recently traveled to Las Vegas to view a stunning example of how M2M communications can make our nation’s highways safer. USAT was the connectivity partner for Las Vegas Electric, and supported this company’s efforts to design a solution that monitered the wind levels on the highway spanning a Nevada dam. If wind levels, which are monitored real-time using a cellular modem, exceed what is pre-determined to be a safe level, the authorities can act to close the highway. USAT supplied the connectivity device and a turn-key solar power and battery assembly that provided power for the modem (V4228) and the wind speed sensor. The masts used to mount the wind sensors and the photovoltaic panels are mounted right on the side of the dam. As you can tell from the photograph included here, the Las Vegas Electric team was extremely brave to undertake this installation project.
According to a press release on their Web site, Sixnet LLC, a leading provider of hardened Ethernet networking swtiches, has been acquired by Red Lion Controls via Red Lion’s parent company Spectris plc, an instrumentation and control company.
The purchase will allow Red Lion to expand their offerings in the industrial automation space along with increased presence in the US market for M2M devices.